City staff has decided that the North Shattuck Farmers’ Market can no longer remain in its current location. In order for us to continue operating the market, we must move it to the frontage road alongside CVS. The reasons that City staff cites for the move are “ADA, retail impact or related safety and liability issues.”
We disagree with the City’s decision. However, we are committed to doing our best to make the farmers’ market work in the new location. We don’t want to abandon the farmers and the North Berkeley shoppers who rely on this market.
WHAT WE ARE ASKING:
We need community members to help us through this forced transition. Whether we remain a viable market in the new location depends greatly on our customers’ support. If you signed our petition we were circulating earlier this year, thank you! The best thing you can do now is make an effort to shop the market and support the farmers.
We have asked the City to allow us to remain in place till September. The summer is prime selling time for the farmers, who were hard hit last winter and need to recoup their losses. We also need more time to work out some of the difficult logistics of the new location. Unofficially, the City has indicated that the move can be postponed till after Labor Day.
City staff says that the proposed market location is preferable from an ADA perspective because the grade is less steep. We consulted with ADA specialists, and they agreed. At the same time, the market has been there for a full decade, and during that time we have not received complaints from disabled shoppers about their ability to shop at the market. We are committed to ensuring accessibility, regardless of the location of the market.
The property owner of Shattuck Commons believes that the farmers’ market negatively affects his property value. He finds it unacceptable that the market occupies the parking spaces alongside his building and has stated clearly that he will not be satisfied until the market is gone. Special Events Coordinator Eric Brenman, who issues permits for the City, summed up the power imbalance: “the property owner has lawyers and the farmers’ market has rutabagas.” This problem is much larger than any one farmers’ market: it is a widespread experience that many urban farmers’ markets encounter, when a single property owner or business views the market as a detraction, does not see its value to the community, and actively lobbies for its removal.
IS A FARMERS’ MARKET JUST AN EVENT?
One of the fundamental problems we face is that when it comes to permitting, farmers’ markets are considered “special events.” Many other types of permits can be appealed to City Council (your elected representatives), but “special events” cannot. Therefore, it is not an open process that considers citizen input, and we have little recourse.
We believe that farmers’ markets are categorically different from “special events.” The North Berkeley Farmers’ Market “event” happens 50 times a year, is the lifeblood of 15 farmers and 7 small businesses (most of which are Berkeley-based), and is the food source for restaurants, food justice programs, and tens of thousands of residents. It is more infrastructure than event: farmers’ markets comprise the underlying foundation of the local, alternative food system. Berkeley prides itself on its food culture; the farmers’ markets are a key part of that, and part of the social fabric. Ideally, farmers markets would have their own permitting category, one that recognizes its function and the value of the community’s wishes.